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5 things to know today: Occupancy limits, Rapid testing, Priest abuse, Oldest resident, Veteran care

A rundown of some of the best stories found on Inforum.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum appears at a COVID-19 news conference. Kyle Martin / The Forum

1. North Dakota to allow more patrons in bars, restaurants as COVID-19 cases fall

Gov. Doug Burgum announced Monday, Jan. 4, that North Dakota is moving down a COVID-19 risk level, which will allow bars and restaurants in the state to serve more customers.

The state will shift from its high to moderate COVID-19 risk designation on Friday, Jan. 8, according to a news release. The move means restaurants and bars will be permitted to serve up to 65% of their normal occupancy starting at 8 a.m. on Friday.

Eating and drinking establishments had previously been limited to 50% capacity, though the restrictions have been lightly enforced in most parts of the state.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

2. North Dakota's rollout of rapid COVID-19 testing too slow for Cass County commissioners


010521 N.FF.CovidTestingFargo.jpg
City employee Karen Niemi hands out a COVID-19 rapid test kit during a testing event at the Fargo Civic Center on Monday, Jan. 4. The self-administered tests will be available for residents 1-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the downtown center. David Samson / The Forum

As Fargo offers free rapid COVID-19 tests for asymptomatic people this week, Cass County commissioners said they are frustrated that the tests were not made available by the state sooner as the tests apparently sat on shelves for months.

North Dakota has received more than 2 million of the rapid tests, which give results in about 15 minutes, from the federal government, according to Brenda Vossler, head of the state Department of Health's rapid antigen testing program.

Cass County Commissioner Chad Peterson said he knew 20,000 of the rapid tests were being stored at Fargo Cass Public Health and he asked at a recent local COVID-19 task force meeting why the tests were not being used.

Read more from The Forum's Barry Amundson and Michelle Griffith

3. No charges possible for priests after child sex abuse investigation, North Dakota AG says

Bible and cross

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says that after a lengthy investigation, criminal charges won't be filed against any priests or other Catholic officials accused of sexually abusing children in the state.


The Bureau of Criminal Investigation found that two living priests could have faced criminal charges for allegedly abusing children. However, the statute of limitations has run out, Stenehjem said Monday, Jan. 4.

“I regret it will not be possible to have these men face their victims at a trial and face the potential consequences, but I hope it brings a measure of comfort to the victims that these crimes were eventually investigated,” Stenehjem said in a statement.

Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten

4. North Dakota's oldest resident Iris Westman dies at age 115

Iris Westman smiles as she tells stories of growing up in the upper midwest in Northwood, ND on Wednesday, August 24, 2016. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)
Iris Westman smiled as she told stories of growing up in the upper Midwest in Northwood, N.D. in this photo taken on Wednesday, August 24, 2016. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

Iris Westman, who at age 115 was the oldest living person in North Dakota and the second oldest living person in the United States, died Sunday, Jan. 3, in Northwood, N.D.

Westman was born Aug. 28, 1905, on the family farm near Aneta, N.D., where she grew up with her parents and three brothers, said her great-great niece, Katie Pinke, who is publisher of Agweek Magazine, a sister-publication of this one in Forum Communications.

Westman graduated from Aneta Public School in 1923 and from UND, with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Education in 1928. She was the first college graduate in her family, which includes Pinke’s mother, Jane Huso Lukens, and Pinke’s son, Hunter, a UND student who is a captain of the UND football team.


Read more From Forum News Service's Ann Bailey

5. Fargo Veterans Affairs to get a free-of-charge facility to house families of vets receiving care

fisher house Cleveland
The Fargo Veterans Affairs Health Care System has been approved for a Fisher House, which will provide temporary and free accommodations for the families and caregivers of veterans. This image is of a Fisher House in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo courtesy of the Fisher House Foundation / Special to The Forum

The Fargo Veterans Affairs Health Care System has been approved as a priority site for a future VA Fisher House, of which there are more than 90 around the United States and the world , providing temporary accommodations free of charge for the families and caregivers of veterans receiving care at VA facilities.

"This is great news for our area veterans and their families," said Dr. Bret Weintraub, director of the Fargo VA.

Weintraub said family support often plays a significant role in the healing and treatment provided at the local system and he said a Fisher House located near the north Fargo facility will make "an important, positive impact on the outcomes for our patients."

Read more from The Forum's Dave Olson

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